Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Uncivil liberties

The idea that if you are against CCTV you are somehow for crime is the laziest argument I have ever heard. The other common one is ‘if you have nothing to hide, why should you care?’

Ummmm I don’t know. Why don’t we let our parents/friends/partners attach cameras and voice recording equipment to our jackets when we leave the house? Why is stalking a crime and restraining orders so common?

We have bought into this culture of fear so totally that we’re not even blinking an eye at random stop and searches and dodgy anti terrorism laws. We don’t care that we’re giving our tacit agreement to being treated like criminals by default and considered guilty until proven innocent.

There is one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK. That is a massive number at massive expense and still evidence says there has been no real effect on crime levels.

To make matters worse, the Data Protection Act fails spectacularly at protecting our rights to information gained under CCTV and surveillance.

The Home Office is now planning a £2bn move that asks private communications companies and service providers to expand the information they have on customers. Our every online move, each click and who we speak to will now be logged and monitored for the government, police and MI5’s use.

I don’t know what the solution is but I reject the premise of the choice being presented to me and the path it will surely take us down. The scariest thing about this whole situation is that we’re not talking about it; we’re not debating it amongst ourselves nor looking for another way.

If you are interested in finding out more, check out No2id who campaign for civil liberties.

Whatever your opinion is, join the debate.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Etisalat gave us 2 new boxes

A few weeks ago I got home from work to find that some nice people from etisalat had paid us a visit and installed a box on the wall. A fibre optic connection, supposedly. But no one said what we're meant to do with it. So we ignored it. And since it wasn't visible behind the couch, forgot all about it.

And then yesterday, I got home to find that more nice people from etisalat had been over. They very kindly offered to replace our D-Link wireless router for free, with a brand new Siemens router. Thanks, etisalat.

Except once again, they installed it without leaving behind any configuration or set-up instructions. And so we were offline. Laptops not even picking up our network.

Called 101. The arrogant, patronizing call centre employee (g**) asked me to enter all sorts of useless TCP/IP digits, which I knew wouldn't work. And then, with every ounce of intelligence in his brain, as I predicted, he said "restart the router, then restart your machine. It should work". Me: "No, it won't". G**: "It will. If not, just call us back." ME: "But I'm telling you it won't." G**: "Listen, I gave you all the settings manually. You just need to restart".

I hung up. I restarted. I called back and got a much nicer person this time.

As it turned out, the nice people from etisalat hooked up the new wireless router with an ethernet cable to the wall socket - and not to the fibre optic box. In the end, in a fury, I just said "Listen, I don't want to spend an hour on the phone trying different cables and settings. Your people messed this up, your people need to come here and fix it."

So now I wait.

But just to let you know, I tried unplugging the new Siemens and using our lovely, perfect little D-Link. The laptop detected the network. But nothing's working. Cos now we HAVE to use Fibre Optic.

With a little bit of 'wasta', more nice people from etisalat came over yesterday, and with a little help of my brother, we now have Internet at home again.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

And we're back!

Just a quick note to let our avid reader(s) know that we're back online. Sarsour & I have been traveling (I think she still is). We met up in Italy for a few days and spent some time in Florence and Amalfi. We shall resume blogging this week. Although I'm not sure how much to dedicate to the trip yet, since it included: Florence, Amalfi, Pompeii, Assisi, Rome, Pisa and Venice. (And if you count the ones we passed through: Castiglion Fiorentino, Napoli and Salerno!)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Is 'cool' a thing of the past?

“She called me ‘dude’… who says that anymore?” my friend’s boyfriend asked her bemusedly after we met for the first time.

People do still say that don’t they? I’m not way behind the curve on picking up on the fact that one of my generation's colloquialisms has expired? Are there other ones I should be aware of?

I am definitely at an age where I start to think the wardrobe choices of teenagers are often questionable at best.

That could be a sign.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

I am approved

I arrived at the U.S. consulate at 7:00am this morning for my visa application appointment. I probably should've arrived earlier, because although it doesn't open till 7am, there was already a queue of over 50 people ahead of me.

First, you queue at the white cabin outside, where they have to confirm that you do have an appointment today and that you're not just a random walk-in. Security check point #1. Scan, search, leave any bags, mobiles, etc. Thankfully, I'd left everything apart from my papers, a book, and my wallet in the car.

Inside the portacabin, there are 3 sections, each one with 3 long benches. I sat down in section A, as B and C were full. People in section C (closest to the door on the other side) get to leave first. A security guard unlocks the door, ushers them out in one single file, locks the door after them, and then proceeds to move those seated in section B into section C and we (A) move along to B, and so on. About 45 minutes later, I'm now stepping outside to enter the consulate.

In the lobby, a nice lady calls "Next", checks my paperwork - all in order - tick tick tick. Security check-point #2. Scan, search, wipe fingers with thing that looks like a band-aid. Exit. Proceed to queue for lift. Security check-point #3. Scan. Leave mobiles behind - again didn't have one. Take lift up to consulate.

Security check-point #4. Scan. But wait. Now I'm about to step into the consulate. So scanning is not enough. The security guard went through my file, paper by paper, then through my book, and then he opened and went throughmy wallet . Grrrrrrrrr. By now I'm really exploding inside. Bear in mind it's now 9:00am.

Anyway, I'm now inside the consulate. Get a number, queue. Go to window. Scan fingerprints. Left hand. Right hand. Both thumbs. Ooops! didn't get the little finger on your left hand. Please scan left hand again. Ok. Get another number. Queue. Go to window. Answer some questions. Important ones - not like the pointless ones in the application form, where they ask you about your skills and training in firearms, explosives and other weapons.

Approved. Leave.

Security procedure: 2 Hours 30 minutes
Visa application procedure: 20 minutes

As a colleague of mind said to me, "and you haven't even arrived at the border yet..."


Friday, 3 April 2009

Man on wire

On a misty August morning in 1974, a man walked across a wire traversing the space between the Twin Towers in New York City. Suspended 450 meters above the ground with no safety net, Philippe Petit pranced back and forth for 45 minutes as astounded New Yorkers watched below in wonderment and police stood helplessly by.

Everyone watching knew this was something special. One of those moments where time stands still and all present know they have witnessed something they will never forget.

After years of planning this was, for Philippe, his moment. As he neared the middle of his walk he sat on the wire and looked down, contemplating the world below him.

Later, when asked the reason for risking his life to do this Petit shrugged and said "when I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk."

Philippe’s story has been beautifully documented in ‘Man on Wire’ and I recommend it highly. The movie incorporates original footage of Philippe’s walk as well as recent interviews with him and his crew of adventurers.

If for no other reason, watch it because every once in a while we all need to be reminded that the spectacular is sometimes right outside our doorstep on what seems like just another weekday morning.